Toronto-Based Chef Duo Ricky+Olivia Promote Collaboration in a Crisis


By Nicole Di Tomasso

TORONTO — During this year’s Terroir Symposium, held across two weeks (Nov. 8 to 10 and 15 to 17), Toronto-based chefs, Ricky Casipe and Olivia Simpson, professionally known as Ricky+Olivia, spoke  with Renee Lalonde about the state of the industry and the importance of collaboration to successfully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Casipe and Simpson lead the culinary program at Westcott Vineyards in Jordan Station, Ont. from May until October. During the winter months, the chef duo hosts pop-up and private events across Ontario.

“A lot of what we’re going to talk about is collaboration, and maybe not in the sense that most chefs are used to,” says Casipe. “Collaboration is more of a necessity now. Restaurants are sharing their space with other businesses and chefs are being more transparent with staff about finances.”

For some time, Casipe and Simpson lived together with their staff in the Niagara region to run the restaurant at Westcott Vineyards, making it easier to be fully transparent about profit margins, costs of cleaning supplies and other important variables.

“It’s hard not be transparent when you’re stuck in a house with your sous-chef and pastry chef,” said Casipe. “It brought us closer together.”

Additionally, Casipe and Simpson encourage their staff to explore other culinary avenues, marking another layer of transparency. The duo recognizes and supports different skill sets their staff could offer elsewhere without damaging their own start-up business.

“We collaborate with our staff as much as possible, highlight their talents, encourage creativity and see how they can make money with their own side business,” says Simpson. “It always adds to the business. Our staff is equally as excited to promote and share things they’re doing under our umbrella with their networks as well. Everyone gets to broaden their network,” says Simpson.

“That’s the bread and butter of our events,” says Casipe. “We work with other businesses to enhance each other’s experiences. There is definitely a need and a market for things like this.”

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